Carly Rae Jepsen gave her audience at The Fillmore a space where members could feel everything as extremely as they wanted to.
On her tour for her latest album Dedicated, Jepsen made no promises of grandeur, but her enthusiasm carried the crowd. The lighting was fun, but not overly complex. Her outfits were bright and subtle. She danced the way you dance with your friends at a bar when you know the lights are too dark to be seen. But the familiarity of her enthusiasm bled into the audience, and her show turned into the dark bar we’re not afraid to dance at.
She warmed the crowd up with “No Drug Like Me,” a song that promises something new and blissful, but with a hint of deviance behind it. She moved through hits like “Emotion,” “Run Away With Me,” and “Call Me Maybe,” and with each familiar hit the crowd loosened up a little more.
While Jepsen left the stage for a costume change, her background dancers took over for a bit, and everyone in the crowd bopped around excitedly, shifting during the lull. A woman in the crowd approached me and handed me a glow stick then fell further into the crowd, handing out more along the way. When Jepsen returned, she had on a new shimmery gold romper, one that was bright but unassuming, and she went immediately into “Want You In My Room.”
The song starts with low synths which make it more tonally sensual than some of her others, but it’s still fun and adorable, which is her trademark.There’s a youthful excitement to the song. She’s leaving her window open for her lover and singing, “I wanna do bad things to you,” and asking, “Baby, don’t you want me, too?” Even her most sexual songs are filled with an earnestness that is less about the sex and more about the excitement and electricity of getting near your crush. Everyone was dancing, but they were dancing with themselves and not necessarily the people they came with.
Jepsen then went into “Too Much,” which is the heart of Dedicated and was the heart of the show. The song paints a picture of a person who feels everything extremely and self-consciously. She sings of the ways she feels that she’s too much, and asks repeatedly, “Is this too much?” searching for reassurance. In the chorus she sings, “I'll do anything to get to the rush / Now I'm dancing, and I'm dancing too much / So be careful if you're wanting this touch / 'Cause if I love you, then I love you too much,” and as listeners we feel ourselves embracing all the ways we are too much. As the song grows and nears the end, the repeated “Is this too much?” began to feel rhetorical. We’re okay with too much.
Carly Rae Jepsen champions messy feelings. She sings of feelings that maybe aren’t tied together with a bow because she isn’t either. She isn’t the smoothest dancer, and her movements don’t seem the most natural. But her dancing and stage presence are genuine and earnest, and capture exactly what her lyrics do. She presents us with longing spilling over. There’s no expectation to be put together or to contain yourself when listening to her music or attending her show.
Her music depicts love and longing to the point where you feel almost sick about the intensity of your own feelings. But there’s never a loss of self in it. It’s a healthy love, and it’s a practice in giving yourself over to the intensity of your feelings without losing your selfhood in the process. This is most clear in songs like “Boy Problems” and “Party For One,” which are the two songs she sang before the encore. Her music is a prioritization of self in that she demands to feel everything and not let anyone tell her that she should feel less or be less. She also demanded this of her audience, and the space became a communal celebration of selfhood.
She ended the show with “Cut To The Feeling” and the lights flushed the audience and confetti flooded the room. The lights blinded you to anyone around you, and it was the final safety net to be entirely too much. The room was blindingly bright, but everyone danced as though we were at a dark bar with our friends, invisibly and carelessly.